The Forgotten Refugees
For almost two decades, more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees have lived in seven refugee camps in southeastern Nepal. The refugees are descendents of ethnic Nepalese who have lived in Bhutan for centuries.
Threatened by an increase in the ethnic Nepalese population, the Bhutanese government introduced in mid 1980s a series of policies that stripped the Bhutanese of Nepali origin of their citizenship and civil rights.
Tens of thousands fled to Nepal in the early 1990s, where they have been in refugee camps for the last nearly two decades. The Bhutanese government maintains they were not legally Bhutanese citizens, while the government of Nepal will not integrate them into the local population, saying they are the responsibility of Bhutan.
With no access to land for agriculture production or other employment opportunities, the refugees rely on humanitarian assistance to survive.
Since 1992 and with the support of among others the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department, the United Nations World Food Programme has been providing humanitarian food assistance to over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees.
Chandra Maya Khatiwada is 35 years old and has lived almost half of her life as a refugee. She lives with family in a simple bamboo hut in the Beldanghi II Extension refugee camp.
For almost two decades, Chandra has been waiting in vain for a chance to return home. She is now seeking a future outside the camps and have applied for resettlement in the US.